Review – Death Stranding: Director’s Cut (PC)
I think it’s safe to say that 2019’s Death Stranding was (and still is) director’s Hideo Kojima’s weirdest game to date. A post apocalyptic delivery simulator that has what’s essentially a mailman traveling across America to deliver packages whilst avoiding threats from the afterlife. It is a divisive game that provided one of the most polarising gameplay experiences of the past generation. This review will primarily be focused on the additions and improvements featured in the brand new Director’s Cut release for PC. For a more in depth review of the game’s story and gameplay check out my other review here.
I don’t want to go too much into the details of the story. Death Stranding is set years after the titular event has wiped out most life on Earth. Humanity is isolated and forced to live underground disconnected from the outside world. Porters serve a critical role in bringing supplies and resources from one outpost to the next. After a body disposal gone wrong, main character Sam journeys west across America to reconnect outposts and bring them on to the Chiral network to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure.
Outside of it being a relevant story within today’s world, it was just a bizarrely weird story that was full of mystery, intrigue and classic Kojima “what the hell” moments that we have come to love. However, it wasn’t without its flaws, relying too much of incredibly heavy exposition dumps and characters outside of the main villains just not having enough chance to shine. The story is very much identical in the Director’s Cut, but with a couple of extra minor cutscenes and an extra mission.
Death Stranding‘s core gameplay remains divisive to this day. With some people loving it and other people hating it. Boiling down essentially to a walking simulator that has Sam traversing dangerous terrain to deliver packages to people around an America reclaimed by nature. Rivers, mountains, snow and rain will slow you down. Whilst MULEs want to steal packages for themselves and BT’s (Beached Things) provide a supernatural threat when it starts raining, leaving around craters whenever they kill anyone. It’s up to you how to make these deliveries and tackle these threats.
One of the things that stood out was its “strand” gameplay, which built upon the basic messaging system seen in games like Dark Souls to have a visible impact on the world. Once you connect a region up to a chiral network, then multiplayer becomes available. Player structures dot the landscape, giving you routes and access points to help you, from ladders and climbing ropes to get you over large mountains to bridges to help you across rivers. Eventually you and other players will also be able to contribute to the building of roads for vehicles. It’s an incredibly neat and unique feeling system that plays with the game’s themes of reconnecting people.
So what does the Director’s Cut actually include? To be honest, not as much as you would expect, as it feels a bit more of a content update than a full on Director’s Cut. There’s a new firing range that includes pre-designed missions that feel like a call-back to Metal Gear Solid‘s VR ops. This makes up a bulk of what you’ll see in the new content, with stealth and combat challenges that make use of all the game’s mechanics and gadgets that you might otherwise rarely use throughout the main game. I honestly had an absolute blast with these, which ended up being the surprising highlight of this new edition. There’s also a race track that you can build next to the timefall farm, for some reason.
Speaking of Gadgets, we have a few new additions to help you on your delivery escapades. There is a brand new jet pack-style stabliser can allow you jump from great heights without taking fall damage, at the cost of taking up a few precious backpack slots. A catapult which launches packages at great distances was another neat addition. Nothing game changing, but still welcome regardless. The biggest disappointment though is the lack of major Quality of Life changes. This was a great opportunity for Kojima Productions to tidy up the menus a little bit and reduce the tedium of skipping through the same cutscenes that play every time you make a delivery. They are still incredibly annoying.
I loved the fact that the PC version of Death Stranding: Director’s Cut actually supports the DualSense’s features. I picked one up after playing Ghostwire: Tokyo and am in love with it. The adaptive triggers provide that nice immersive touch when hauling large amounts of cargo across the treacherous terrain. With that being said, haptic feedback doesn’t seem to make use of the controller’s speaker which I was never a fan of anyway, so I didn’t mind this removed feature. So big thumbs up there regardless, and I hope to see more games bring DualSense support to PC.
Finally, there is a short questline that has been added to the early game area. These brief additions will take you to the first BB testing facility. It’s a very brief storyline that takes about an hour to complete, but it did feature a fairly unique location that Death Stranding could have used more of. The interior sections are very heavily stealth focused, with a few call backs to the first Metal Gear Solid game. Still, if you enjoyed the base game and want a little bit more, then there’s a reasonable amount here especially for the upgrade cost. The firing range and new equipment are absolutely a blast whilst this short questline was a nice touch and hopefully is a hint towards future entries with a more varied approach to gameplay.
Visually, this is still pretty much the exact same looking game from a few years ago, and it looks phenomenal. The huge open world is still impressive with some breathtaking sights, and some of the best character models we’ve ever seen in a game. Ultrawide support is still here (with the tiny black bars), and it runs like a dream, with only minor stutters that happen infrequently. But we also have the improved DLSS 2, and AMD’s own resolution scalling solution with FSR and Intel’s own XeSS coming later in the summer.
It’s the same deal with sound design as well. The voice acting is solid throughout with an impressive cast from Troy Baker, Mads Mikkelsen, Norman Reedus and Lea Seydoux, all doing a great job portraying their respective characters. Mads and Troy do an especially superb job bringing their villains to life. On the other hand, the soundtrack might not be to everyone’s taste, with tracks from the likes of indie artists Low Roar, CHVRCHES, and now Woodkid being added to the mix. It’s not my kind of music either, but it’s hard to deny that it works wonderfully for this kind of game.
Let me be clear: if you didn’t like Death Stranding when it first came out, then this Director’s Cut will do basically nothing to fix any of the game’s issues for you. It is still obtuse at times, a bit too long, a bit too confusing for some. However, if you were a fan of the original launch, then there’s just enough new content here to justify the upgrade. It sure gave me the perfect excuse to start a fresh save and enjoy these brand new additions.
The Director’s Cut doesn’t improve the visuals at all, but it also didn’t need to. Death Stranding still looks absolutely breathtaking.
The core gameplay will still be incredibly divisive. The Director’s Cut only brings in minor additions that don’t change the game’s main loop in any way whatsoever.
Whilst the soundtrack won’t be to everyone’s liking, it fits the world perfectly, and the voice acting is solid throughout, with some incredibly strong performances.
Death Stranding: Director’s Cut doesn’t change the game in big ways but brings a number of small additions for a decent package.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Death Stranding: Director’s Cut is available now on PC and Playstation 5.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM. Game installed on SSD.
A copy of Death Stranding: Director’s Cut was provided by the publisher.